Editors’ note: We are pleased to announce a new regular contributor to our pages: Lloyd Billingsley. Lloyd is the author of Hollywood Party: How Communism Seduced the Film Industry in the 1930s and 40s and other books. His work has appeared in countless newspapers and magazines, and he served as a correspondent for the Washington Times and The Spectator (London). Among many projects over his long career, Lloyd collaborated with Barbara Olsen, who perished on American Airlines Flight #77 on September 11.
It’s not the 10 or 20-year marker but that is no reason miss the lesson of September 11, 2001 most relevant in 2023 moving forward: the failure of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. As the people might recall, the bureau also slipped up on the prequel.
In 1993, the FBI failed to prevent Islamic terrorists from bombing the World Trade Center, which claimed six victims. The lessons went unlearned. For all its money, power and resources, the FBI failed to prevent terrorists from hijacking airliners and crashing them into the Pentagon and World Trade Center.
“September 11, 2001, was a day of unprecedented shock and suffering in the history of the United States,” proclaimed The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States. “The nation was unprepared,” notes the 2004 report, including an agency that should have been the best prepared, the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
“The domestic agencies never mobilized in response to the threat,” the commission concluded. “They didn’t have a plan,” and “the public was not warned.” The FBI Inspector General contributed to the report, so FBI incompetence was doubtless worse than indicated. No word about any FBI bosses losing their jobs over the failure, which continued apace.
In 2009, the FBI was monitoring the communications of Maj. Nidal Hasan with al Qaeda terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki. The FBI’s Washington office dropped the surveillance, and on November 5, 2009 at Fort Hood, Texas, Hasan shot dead 13 Americans and wounded more than 30 others. For the composite character president David Garrow described in Rising Star: The Making of Barack Obama, it was “workplace violence,” not terrorism or even gun violence.
No word whether anybody in the FBI was disciplined, demoted or discharged, but a ballpark figure might be zero. For his part, the composite character president ignored actual terrorism and targeted his domestic opposition.
In 2012, the Department of Homeland Security released Hot Spots of Terrorism and Other Crimes in the United States, 1979-2008. This study classified persons judged to be “suspicious of centralized federal authority” and “reverent of individual liberty” as “extreme right-wing terrorists.”
In 2013, Challengers from the Sidelines: Understanding America’s Violent Far-Right, from the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, warns about the “anti-federalist movement.” Members of this movement “espouse strong convictions regarding the federal government, believing it to be corrupt and tyrannical, with a natural tendency to intrude on individuals’ civil and constitutional rights.” They also support civil activism, individual freedoms, and self-government.
That same year, the FBI failed to prevent Islamic terrorists Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev from bombing the Boston Marathon in 2013, killing three and wounding 281. Local police, not the FBI, killed Tamerlan and captured Dzhokhar.
Two years later in 2015, the FBI failed to prevent Islamic terrorists Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik from gunning down 14 people in San Bernardino California. The victims included blacks and Hispanics but the composite character’s FBI did not call it a racist hate crime. San Bernardino police, not the FBI, took down the terrorists with no loss of innocent life.
In 2016, the FBI failed to stop Islamic State recruit Omar Mateen from shooting dead 49 people and wounding more than 50 at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. As in Boston and San Bernardino, local police, not the FBI, took down the mass murderer. Long before these failures, the FBI showed skill at gunning down Americans guilty of no crime.\
In the Ruby Ridge siege of 1992, brought on by an entrapment scheme, the FBI deployed some 400 heavily armed agents, helicopters, and armored personnel carriers against Randy Weaver and his family. The rules of engagement allowed deadly force against any family member seen with a firearm, but in effect it was shoot on sight.
On August 22, 1992, FBI sniper Lon Horiuchi shot dead Randy’s wife Vicki Weaver as she held her infant daughter. Vicki Weaver was unarmed, not under arrest, and not wanted for any crime. Snipers are trained carefully “to acquire” the target, so there is little chance the shooting was accidental.
At the time of the siege, Attorney General William Barr spent two weeks organizing former attorney generals to defend FBI sniper Lon Horiuchi. Louis Freeh, Clinton pick for FBI boss, expressed “regret and sorrow for Mrs. Weaver’s death,” which he claimed was “tragic but accidental.” Freeh later recommend Larry Potts, special agent in charge at Ruby Ridge, to be deputy director of the FBI.
For the crime of living in rural Idaho, Weaver and his family were smeared as “white separatists.” The FBI now brands protesting parents as domestic terrorists, and just about anyone less than worshipful of Joe Biden is a violent extremist, white supremacist and so forth. People of faith are a prime target. Last year, a 25–member FBI SWAT team showed up at the residence of pro-life activist Mark Houck in the early morning hours.
“At least 10, 15 marked and unmarked units right in front of me,” Houck told reporters.
“Long guns pointed at me, heavily armored vests, ballistic helmets, ballistic shields, a battering ram.” Houck, a father of seven children, spotted an FBI agent in the back of the house, and at least five federal agents on his porch “with M-16s pointed at me and now my wife as she entered the opening of the door.”
Houck posed no threat and the FBI’s militant action was over two alleged violations of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act. In January a federal jury found Houck not guilty.
On August 9, “The FBI shot and killed a Utah man who allegedly made online threats” to kill Joe Biden. Threats to the president are normally handled by the Secret Service, but the action against Robertson was an “FBI-led effort.”
Robertson “allegedly” made online threats against New York prosecutor Alvin Bragg, and just about every Democrat except Jimmy Carter. There are no reports of the 74-year-old actually shooting or attempting to shoot anybody, and it’s unclear if he fired the .357 revolver he allegedly brandished. All depends on the word of the FBI, which shoots first and avoids questions later.
The Federal Bureau of “Investigation” mounted no such action at the home of Nidal Hasan, Syed Farook, Omar Mateen, or the Tsarnaev brothers. In similar style, no FBI SWAT team showed up at the residence of 19 terrorists, before they could hijack airliners and crash them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.
“Because of that terrible day, we’ve transformed the Bureau in ways that have made us stronger and better, and our country safer,” said FBI director Christopher Wray on September 9, 2022.
“Those transformations have proven critical over the past 21 years—and will remain critical in the face of a continuously evolving terrorist threat. As we carry on this mission to protect Americans from terrorism, we bring to our work the same sense of purpose and resolve that we felt on 9/11 and in the days that followed.” And so on.
The struggle against FBI failure is the struggle of memory against forgetting.